October 9, 2013

Abigail: The Beautiful and Discerning

I do not think there is such as strong of an example of a wise and humble woman as Abigail in the Old Testament. Today, you'll want to grab a Bible and flip to 1 Samuel, chapter 25. You'll get a lot more out of this with me if you do. Go ahead, give the chapter a read through, and I'll make a cup of tea while I wait for you here. 

Done? Cool. Let's take a closer look now.

To start, remember that God had anointed David to be king over Israel in order to replace Saul, a king who did not heed, obey, or love Him. Before David ever became king though he spent a great deal of time running away from Saul who wanted to kill David to protect his kingship. It's a game of cat and mouse. But during this on-the-run season of David's life he meets Abigail, who scripture describes as beautiful and discerning (verse 3). Juxtaposed to her character was her husband's, Nabel (meaning foolish), who's described as harsh, and behaving badly.

If you read the whole account you know that there's this situation where David and his men are traveling, they come across Nabel's land, ask for food, and Nabel rejects David request. A couple of things to note here though...
  1. David and his men had helped protect Nabel's sheep, which was essentially Nabel's money. Sheep were an investment, a livelihood back then. David and his men had earned a payback.
  2. David's request for food is not over-stepping it. It was a feast day when this is all happening, which meant Nabel was under obligation (a Jewish Old Testament law) to serve those who were in his household or on his land food if they were hungry (i.e. Nabel was disobeying God).
  3. David requested a small portion of food considering how many men he had to feed with it. He was not outrageous in his asking.
  4. Nabel was super rich. He could easily afford to feed David and his men.
  5. It's pretty safe to say that Nabel knew David to be God's anointed king. It's not like he was totally unaware or blind to this fact or David's resume of victories (like the whole Goliath thing). Clearly Abigail is aware of all of this we see later on.
Had Nabel declined politely, maybe it wouldn't have turned into such an ordeal, but instead he did so with contempt, meaning Nabel looked down upon David seeing him as worthless and beneath him. So Nabel was not only foolish, and harsh, but he also had a horrible ego which manifested in how he treated other people. And David, being totally human here, reacts in anger:
And David said to his men, 'Every man strap on his sword!' And every man of them strapped on his sword. David also strapped on his sword..." (1Sam. 25:13)
Was David a bit justified in his anger? Yep. He had been unfairly wronged. Nabel was seriously out of line. David also wanted vengeance, and his "brilliant" idea* is to not only kill Nabel, but also his entire household. 

Fortunately, a servant in the household hears this, and runs to find Abigail. I have no doubts that she was fully aware of her foolish husband and the injustice he shoveled out to others (nor would I be surprised that she got the brunt of it herself). So we have this life or death scenario, which maybe Abigail felt came out of the blue... I mean I just picture her in the kitchen quarters kneading bread, and all of the sudden a servant runs in, screaming that death is coming to them all... like any minute.

Here is where we see Abigail shine, because unlike her husband, Abigail has cultivated both her heart and her mind towards wisdom. So what does our girl do? She makes haste (verse18). She's gotten an assessment of the problem, and she's going to act now. Anger and tempers can quickly snowball to the point where they're no longer righteous, but detrimental. The sooner they're put to a stop, the better.

Abigail packs up the largest picnic known to mankind, hops on a donkey, and rides out to meet David and his men. When she sees him she bows before the future king and speaks words of life, praying they would cover the words of death Nabel had spoken (read verses 28-31). David in turn blesses Abigail greatly:
"...Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from avenging myself with my own hand!" -1Samuel 25:33
Later we read that Nabel dies (scholars say this is the result of David giving his vengeance over to the Lord instead of taking it into his own hands), and then David actually marries Abigail, but two things in this story really stuck out to me about Abigail's character, that I think are incredibly important and relevant to us even today...

Abigail was Humble. I loved how Holly Furtick described how humility "speaks to what you know the other person's heart to be, not necessarily what their actions are in a given moment" (paraphrased). Abigail knew that the cry of David's heart was to love, honor, and serve God, but she also knew that his anger toward Nebel (and subsequently her whole household) was taking on the form of vengeance. David's anger could get the better of him and would not have a positive outcome. But instead of "rebuking" him for his behavior, she instead speaks to the king in him. She's extremely respectful and honoring (just look at her posture in her begging David to spare everyone's life), and she speaks life giving words to him (she embodies Proverbs 15:1). She's not like Nebel who think he's better than everyone else.

Abigail was Wise. I'm sure spent the time inclining her heart and mind towards wisdom. Wisdom is not something we become enlightened to overnight. It's hard work. Wisdom is truthful: She does indeed acknowledge her husbands folly. This is an example in scripture of when following her husband would be going against her submission to God first, nor helpful to her spouse... if she has followed along with Nabel she would have enabled him (for more on submission in marriage see here). Wisdom speaks words of life as already stated. Wisdom acknowledges that vengeance belong to God ultimately, which she reminds David of. And while Nebel was blind and ignorant to his wife's godly wisdom, David is not, in fact he praises her for it and encourages her in it.

But now, I'd love to hear from you! What are your thoughts on Abigail?

*To note, because this is a narrative, the story is being described. Hence it does not have God's stamp of approval necessarily on David's actions. 

5 comments :

  1. This is so good! I am loving this series, Natalie!! I always have liked Abigail's courage balanced with humility. It's a tough balancing act and many women end up either being very courageous (and end up speaking over their husbands in a controlling, prideful way) or too meek and lowly by allowing their husband's sin and folly to cause destruction. But Abigail is a picture of balancing these two in a way that is godly. She respected her husband but there was a time and place for her to step up and admit he is a fool.

    I always have wondered why Abigail is not really mentioned anymore after this story. She seems like she would be a great wife and queen, so it's too bad that so much attention is given to Michel and Bathsheba and so little to Abigail.

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    1. I know! I'd love to have known more about Abigail.

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  2. I love Abigail, and I loved this very provoking look at her! I agree with Ella ^^, I wish more had been written about her as David's wife. ;) I very much appreciated your walk through David's request to Nabel, since I had always read it wondering if he was simply exercising his kingly authority? But that made Nabel's punishment so much more understandable, and David's indignation! Thank you, and I'm so looking forward to more. :)

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    1. It's so cool to get all those little background pieces isn't it?! Definitely adds more meaning and richness to the story =)

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  3. Hi Natalie! I haven't visited this Scripture in a long time. Thank you for highlighting it today.

    What a quick-thinker Abigail was...and not afraid to trump her husband. Even though he was doubtlessly mean to her, she did not stop in fear of his reaction, but got that 'picnic' out there! I am really in awe of this mighty lady!

    Blessings :)
    Ceil

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